Hilton takes inspiration from hostels with Motto brand
Hilton takes inspiration from hostels with Motto brand
23 OCTOBER 2018 7:00 AM

Hilton officials saw potential in the flexibility and value of hostels and have decided to pair those aspects with the comfort and reliability of hotels with the new Motto by Hilton brand, which will focus on hard-to-develop city-center locations.

MCLEAN, Virginia—Billed as a “hostel on steroids,” the new Motto by Hilton brand is designed to offer guests affordable and flexible options in highly desirable city-center locations, and Hilton executives believe the brand will offer owners flexibility as well at traditionally hard-to-develop sites.

Phil Cordell, global head of new brand development for Hilton, said the company is targeting the midscale segment with the brand, and company executives decided to pursue the concept because they saw a whitespace in terms of providing the value of a hostel with the safety, reliability and comfort of a hotel. Combining those aspects with premium locations could be a potent combination, he said.

“It’s about giving a home base to have a great experience,” he said. “And it’s about providing value. This will probably be the lowest priced lifestyle brand in our portfolio.”

While Hilton executives, including Cordell and President and CEO Chris Nassetta, have described Motto as a “hostel on steroids,” the news release announcing the new brand alternatively describes it as “a micro-hotel with an urban vibe in prime global locations” and as Hilton’s take on “the emerging lifestyle hostel model.” But Motto will differ from hostels in some key ways, including private beds and baths, as opposed to shared spaces for all sleep and bathing quarters like traditional hostels.

Cordell said the brand is built on four pillars or “North Stars”:

  • finding the “right kind of locations” in urban city centers;
  • offering affordability to guests;
  • being flexible from a guest and franchisee perspective; and
  • offering an authentic experience that blends seamlessly with the local surroundings.

“We want guests to love the hotels and the cities they’re in as much as we do,” he said.

What a Motto room looks like
Cordell said there will be three room types for Motto, each with 163 square feet—compared to 340 square feet for an average midscale hotel and 230 square feet for a Tru by Hilton property.

Those room types are:

  • a solo king or queen bed room;
  • a Murphy bed room, which will fold up to provide desk space and a couch for meetings or workspace; and
  • a queen bed/bunk bed combo.

He said given the locations of the properties, rooms have to be optimized with things like soundproofing.

“I think we really nailed the room and sleep experience,” Cordell said. “They have to have soundproofing, and the limited amenities have to support a good night’s sleep.”

Each room will also have a bathroom he describes as “larger than expected for this size of a room” with a dual-head shower and exposed vanity.

Cordell noted the relatively small private spaces will be supported by vibrant public spaces like lobby-area coffee shops where guests can relax or work.

He said the brand is targeted at both business and leisure travelers, describing their goal as providing a “value-driven, simplified experience at a good price in places you can explore and conduct business in an urban environment.”

One of the things that makes the brand more hostel like, and makes it address an as-of-yet unanswered question for hotel guests, is a high level of connectivity among rooms and guests.

Cordell said one of the biggest issues in the hotel space now is the unmet needs of traveling groups like families. To solve that, Motto will guarantee those groups the ability to book linking rooms, which will open up and turn the small, pod-like rooms into a more shared sleeping experience if they choose.

“Many brands have never been able to guarantee that or crack that code,” he said, noting guests can link up to six or seven rooms at a time.

Those linking rooms can come in a variety of room types, he said, meaning they could use a solo queen bed room for sleeping quarters while using the Murphy bed room as meeting space, if they are traveling for business.

Guaranteeing this sort of booking has also required a fair bit of work on the back end to make sure the brand’s booking systems allowed for it.

“And that’s totally unique to this brand,” he said.

Where you’ll see a Motto
Cordell said the locations for the properties will be key for their success, noting the model simply won’t work in airport, suburban or tertiary markets.

“We’re very focused on where it goes, probably more so than our biggest competitors,” he said.

When asked to define who Hilton views as Motto’s most direct competition, Cordell said he believes the brand is carving out a new space, but it is probably closest to Marriott International’s Moxy in terms of existing brands and it shares some similarities with Pod Hotels.

“In our opinion, there are some things we do that are (geared toward) a broader set of customers, and (Motto) is not as isolated in its appeal,” he said.

Ultimately, the brand is targeting the largest markets around the world, he said, noting the brand has “various deals in various stages.” Current deals include properties in Washington, D.C.; London; San Diego; Boston; Dublin, Ireland; Savannah, Georgia; and Lima, Peru.

Cordell said the brand will require more seasoned developers, who are used to the challenges in doing a project in densely populated, city-center locations.

“This is not a prototypical build,” he said. “You can’t just find two acres in the suburbs. This is a little more complex than that.”

He said the brand’s ramp-up time will likely be slower than something like Tru, but developers with a history of working with these more difficult, urban projects seem eager to do deals for Motto properties.

“We have some new franchisees to Hilton who have been in this space or have done residential in urban areas, and they’re intrigued,” he said.

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